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The Naked Truth The Sexual Health Blog

Sex and hepatitis C

July 22nd, 2011 by The Sexual Health Team

World Hepatitis Day

Is hepatitis C really an STD?

by Linda Lesondak, PhD

The short answer is yes: hepatitis C can be spread through sexual activity…specifically, unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex when the blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions of an infected partner enter the body.

While there are no definitive statistics on how often the virus is transmitted through sex, there are certain factors that can increase your risk. Take the case of Alex, a 42-year-old male, who is infected with another STD…herpes. Alex also admits to having several sexual partners, including rough sex that sometimes results in broken skin and some bleeding. These are all risk factors that increase the chance of getting or transmitting hepatitis C.

Alex didn’t think he was infected because he didn’t have any symptoms. But when he tested positive for hepatitis C in a routine STD screening, he learned that most people infected with the virus are asymptomatic. Only 15-20% of people with acute (short-term) hepatitis C experience symptoms of fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain within six months of exposure to the virus. Most people, like Alex, develop chronic (long-term) hepatitis C, meaning that the virus goes undiagnosed and untreated for many years or even decades…during that time, the virus silently and stealthily damages the liver which, in some cases, can lead to liver failure or liver cancer.

So if you think you might have been exposed to hepatitis C, don’t take any chances. Get tested and treated right away to minimize damage to your liver.

In Alex’s case, the effects of his chronic condition are now being closely monitored. While that’s good news, the earlier hepatitis C is diagnosed, the more successfully it can be monitored or treated with antiviral medications that clear the virus from the body. And for anyone infected with hepatitis C, it’s especially important to keep the body healthy…avoid alcohol and medications that may accelerate liver damage, and prevent others from having contact with your blood.

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/AydınMutlu

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